The European Union is to introduce a ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate baby bottles next year over fears the chemical could be hazardous to the health of young children.
The decision reached yesterday at a meeting of member states will prohibit the manufacture of infant feeding bottles with BPA from 1 March 2011. A full ban, including the placing on the market and the importation into the economic bloc of the bottles, will come into force on 1 June 2011.
A leading polycarbonate industry group labelled the move “disturbing” and said it raised question marks over the regulatory decision-making process in Europe.
The motion was passed by a qualified majority in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, with four countries – including the UK – abstaining. Among the concerns raised by abstainers was the short notice and lack of time to examine the proposal. Last week, FoodProductionDaily.com exclusively revealed the EC was urging members to ban BPA in baby bottles.
“The UK was unable to support this proposal as there was insufficient time for proper scrutiny by the UK Sovereign Parliament," a spokesperson from the country's Food Stnadards Agency told FoodProductionDaily.com. "The Agency’s current position is that exposure to BPA from food contact materials does not represent a risk to consumers based on current scientific evidence that has been reviewed by independent experts.”
But the news was welcomed by John Dalli, European Commissioner of Health and Consumer Policy, who had previously raised concerns about the substance in the aftermath of the updated opinion delivered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) at the end of September.
“This is good news for European consumers,” said Dalli in a statement Thursday. “In the view of the recent opinion of EFSA, I had stressed that there were areas of uncertainty, deriving from new studies, which showed that BPA might have an effect on the development, immune response or tumour promotion. The decision taken today is good news for European parents who can be sure that as of mid-2011 plastic infant feeding bottles will not include BPA.”
In its updated opinion, which was widely viewed as endorsing the continued use of the chemical in food contact materials, EFSA stated it hadn’t identified any new evidence that would lead it to revise the current Tolerable Daily Intake for BPA of 0.05 mg/kg body weight set in 2006, nor had it found convincing evidence of neurobehavioural toxicity of BPA.
The Danish Government welcomed the ban but food minister Henrik Hoegh said it should not be extended further unless new scientific evidence was uncovered.
Surprising and disturbing
Jasmin Bird, spokesperson for the PlasticsEurope Polycarbonate/Bisphenol A industry group, criticised the decision as having no valid scientific basis. She said that the European market for BPA-containing baby bottles had already disappeared.
“We are surprised and disturbed by this decision which goes against the scientific evidence delivered by leading experts such as EFSA,” she added. “There is no new evidence that BPA has adverse effects and it undermines the existing regulatory process for the safety of products to be placed on the market. This could reduce confidence in the reliability of the present system and it questions the decision criteria used by decision makers.”
When asked for its response to the decision, an EFSA spokesman said: “EFSA’s role is to provide independent scientific advice to risk managers such as Member States and the European Commission. It is then up to the risk managers to decide whether to introduce a ban.”